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Tuesday’s news that somehow Bangkok had been named as the 13th healthiest city on earth came at a bad time.
Alarm bells were ringing at the R.C.I. – Rooster Climate Index in Ratchayothin in the north of the capital.
The index is based on two factors – how far I can see from my bedroom balcony and the extent to which my eyes are hurting in the pollution.
The nearest tall buildings were barely visible in swathes of noxious fog and my eyes were stinging as if I’d put my face into an esky containing box jellyfish in Koh Samet.
I would have thrown something from my breakfast tray at the words of the TAT hailing this latest Bangkok accolade, but I developed an uncontrollable coughing fit and was obliged to hack up my hash browns in the hong nam.
Readers of this column will know that Rooster could get a job on the Krung Thep Tourism Promotion Board – I’ve lived here 40 years almost and still love the place.
But a whole host of eye problems – that my doctor blames on approaching old age and the city itself – have developed over that time leaving me very vulnerable to air pollution.
Years past it never affected me. Through the 90s, often travelling to teaching jobs for dozens of kilometers through the smog I would arrive, wash the thick black grime from my face and move on.
The air quality then was much worse but different. It had more to do with the huge amount of construction – big clumps of dust – and black things from exhausts of filthy, ancient and poorly maintained blue and green city buses that belched into my helmetless face.
In 1997 with the so called “Tom Yam Kung” crash, that started in Thailand and brought much of Asia’s financial systems and investment to their collective knees, changed all that.
Construction stopped almost immediately. Cars were repossessed – department stores had them parked bumper to fender in their lots. The baht went from 40 to 50 (to a British pound) overnight then crept up by a few baht a day to 93 at one point.
Bad news for those of us earning baht but great news for the environment. Bangkok became eminently more liveable and when I gave up smoking the next year it really became noticeable!
Until this 2.5 PM stuff came along. I blame it on the PM and his lack of action. You can smell it’s different compared to what we had years ago. This stuff comes from burning of crops – it’s acrid and comes in only during the burning season when the wind is blowing in the right direction.
It’s got nothing to do with vehicle emissions in my view and everything to do with the Thai authorities not keeping the pesky farmers in line.
Of course it is not just Bangkok that is suffering. It has been a horrendous problem in places like Chiang Mai for years. I used to lack sympathy – now I’m your brother.
Prayut – pull your finger out – do you know how much eye medications are costing me you khaki klad rotter?
The news had come from one of those nameless agencies no one has ever heard of entitled “Healthy Lifestyles Cities Report” and only mentioned 44 countries. Yes, there were other factors in their happiness assessments such as lack of obesity – at least when compared to the UK!
But when you’re spluttering uncontrollably, having a bigger waistline seems less important especially when you can’t even see it!
The week began with ceremonies marking the anniversary of the shooting in Korat that saw thirty dead when a soldier went berserk and stole war weapons and a Humvee and headed for Terminal 21. A hero on a “big bike” that fateful day still needs surgery to insert his intestines.
The event – and necessary action from the army to limit such easy access to weapons – was quickly overshadowed by more pressing needs, the pandemic.
This week DPM and health minister Anutin indicated that ALL residents would be getting the vaccine. This created much speculation on the forum about expats getting free jabs. It makes sense as I doubt that coronavirus is too choosy about who they infect.
Infections continued on a largely downward spiral and places like Rayong announced an end to most draconian restrictions. The vaccine passport scheme appears sidelined but the shenanigans about vaccine procurement continued unabated. Local authorities were reined in regarding the purchase of their own supplies.
Pattaya was central to pandemic news with Thaivisa translating a bunch of doom and gloom stories particularly about Walking Street.
This produced a backlash – particularly on TV’s Facebook arm – where posters moaned about negativity and said that the REAL expat nightlife areas in Pattaya were doing rather well.
As if on cue the Thai media – and consequently Thaivisa – hailed the glad tidings about Soi Bua Khao.
Lo and behold the Facebook curmudgeons now shifted tack to moan again that Thaivisa was being deviously optimistic and sucking up to the TAT.
You just can’t win. Have these people no wives? That’s where I retreat to if I fancy a decent moan….
On the same day, side by side at the top of the newsletter were two stories about QUOTES (The Queen Of The Eastern Seaboard) one hailing her as the new Miami, Dubai or Singapore the other saying that she needs to be less reliant on foreigners in the future.
While the first seemed more out of the TAT playbook the second made sense. The days of grubby bars and prostitution in Pattaya are well over. The place has a great future as a playground by the sea for Bangkokians (who have their own online sex industry much the same as anywhere else these days).
It also made sense that Pattaya should become an economic hub and play center stage in the Eastern Economic Corridor developments. Post pandemic, and perhaps hurried along by the effects of the virus, we can expect to see a vastly changed Pattaya that will no longer be tainted by its sex stigma.
Neo Pattaya is much mocked but Rooster for one is coming round to the idea. I strongly suspect that the sex districts will linger but not die. They will be relocated out of town eventually as the price of land and Thai public sentiment will effectively banish them.
For now though I think it is time to stop having a go at Pattaya. There was a charming campaign in London in the 1960s/70s entitled alliteratively “Stop Knocking Neasden”.
It’s time to “Stop Panning Pattaya” and start rebuilding. The same goes for much of the tourism infrastructure nationwide; it needs a shakeup from top to bottom. The pandemic may yet prove to be a long term silver living giving Thailand a chance to reassess who they want to attract and why.
Amazing Thailand has passed, the mystery has faded. Now it needs to concentrate on its friendliness, its environment and yes, it’s value for money.
All these are constantly panned online by nasty people who harp on about dishonesty, litter, xenophobia, lack of safety and a baht that gives you nada.
Poppycock! Thailand still has enormous potential especially if some innovative thinkers can be placed in key positions. Tricky, but not impossible.
I also call on the news media – including Thaivisa – to play their part in this. There must be a balance between clicks and credibility, ridicule and reality. While holding those in authority to account is important, the goal of the good of the country must always remain in sight.
In international news Democrats and some Republicans pressed on in impeaching the former LOTUS. Despite the graphic and at times shocking footage offered as evidence of incitement to insurrection, nothing much will come of it. Not enough GOP will break ranks and admit the glaringly obvious.
Myanmar’s new “leader” (don’t laugh) Min Aung Hliang wrote to Prayut to explain why he just had to seize power and asked for his help in supporting democracy (again, don’t laugh).
Print media quoted Uncle Too (a word that means to grab by force, incidentally) as saying: “Thailand supports the democratic process.” He added a mini-caveat: “The rest is up to him”.
If Prawit had weighed in then we could have used Rooster’s favorite mixed metaphor “the pot belly calling the kettle black”.
Firmly back in Thailand, the man who runs the Elite Card said that the events in Myanmar had inspired Chinese businessmen there to apply to come and live in the kingdom. Elite was expected to finally turn a profit this year.
Rooster picked up on data that showed Elite members live in Chiang Mai, Phuket and Pattaya and spend – wait for it – $100 a day. I thought they were meant to be well-heeled!
Then the penny dropped – the highest number are from the UK, that includes Scotland…..
A quipster friend of mine used to say that a 50p piece was shaped that way so that a spanner could be used to get one out of a local’s hand in Glasgow.
Thai soaps came in for a roasting on Twitter after a rape scene irked the netizens. I am pleased to note that Mrs R has moved away from the dross on Thai TV. Like many she has discovered the Thai language subtitled delights of Netflix and YouTube. Who needs TV anymore except for the Premiership?
In Songkhla a school director who took a gun to a flagpole assembly was given bail. The mum of a M3 girl says he raped her daughter. The director said he loves all children and the gun was only showing in his waistband when he adjusted his position on the dais.
The Thai tome of tedious excuses knows no bounds as further evidenced by a minivan driver who explained his road rage by saying he was late for dinner. Which begs the question as to why he screeched to a halt in front of a Benz causing two pick-ups behind to smash into each other.
Transport minister Saksayam indicated that Hualampong Railway station was on the chopping block now that Grand Central Bang Sue is about to open. This seemed at odds with recent news that trains into the downtown area would continue but be fewer.
Also interesting was a ban on large scale fishing in the Gulf of Thailand apparently to save the mackerel.
Best typo of the week was in print media in a story about the second wave of the pandemic. Apparently, “firms were finding it hard to say afloat”.
It’s two syllables, like under.
Thailand also had its share of what they now call “drama”. The man who found the 10 million baht Melo pearl in Nakhon Sri Thammarat piqued plod’s interest. They discovered he was wanted in connection with 16,000 crystal meth pills and had just returned home.
But the best was one that Rooster had a field day translating. In Wang Nam Khiaw a wife was furious about her philandering husband so decided to plaster the family car with sanitary pads, panties and bras and drive around a market before dumping the car near the nick and disappearing.
Amid other Roosterisms, plod was obliged to take down her panties and remove her sanitary pads.
Poster “canopus1969” suggested that the translator should get a promotion.
Thai-Chinese welcomed in the Year of the Ox on Thursday but the three day weekend looked like being a damp squib. Many schools were – thankfully – remaining open and even the TAT admitted that few Thais had any inclination to travel. Revenue was expected to fall by billions of baht compared to last year.
In Koh Chang – made famous recently by the American guy’s climb down in the face of a jail threat for defamation over his online “corkage” posts – a Thai woman moaned about paying 500 baht for two basic dishes – kapow and moo grathiam. A tourism business leader said that was par for the course at big hotels.
Yes, more fool her for eating such food in a five star place. Eat on the street – it’s usually tastier for such dishes and there is far less chance of getting sick than in a swanky hotel, in my experience.
Finally, today is Sunday February 14th and if you are wondering why the missus is sulking you have probably forgotten it’s Valentine’s Day.
The occasion is celebrated in Asia far more than the west. I particularly like the tradition in Japan and now in other parts of the continent where ladies buy men gifts of chocolate today and the men reciprocate with other gifts on March 14th, White Day.
In Thailand to mark the occasion this week the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce had a survey that said young people would be racing off to short-time hotels without condoms for a bit of “how’s your father”.
For their part, the baby boomers didn’t mind if their marriage partners were not virgins. That seemed to go without saying!
For me I’d like to take this opportunity on behalf of all those with Thai wives to say thank you for putting up with us and that we love and respect you dearly.
And I mean that from the bottom of my wallet.